ARCHIVED -  Telecom Costs Order CRTC 99-14

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Telecom Costs Order CRTC 99-14

  Ottawa, 23 December 1999

In re: Service to high-cost serving areas - Telecom public notice CRTC 97-42

  File Nos.: 8665-C12-04/97 and 4754-159
  Application for costs by the Federation of Alberta Gas Co-ops (the Federation), submitted on its behalf by the Campbell Ryder Consulting Group (Campbell Ryder).
  1. The Commission received an application dated 17 June 1999, for costs associated with the Federation's participation in the above-noted proceeding in the amount of $15,791.34, identifying BCT·TELUS as the proposed cost respondent. By letter dated 8 July 1999 Commission staff asked the Federation to re-file its application with additional information and to serve the application on BCT·TELUS. The Commission received the Federation's re-filed application dated 20 July 1999. BCT·TELUS filed its answer to the application on 30 July 1999. The Federation replied on 6 August 1999.
  Positions of the parties
  2. In its application and reply, the Federation submitted, among other things, that an award of costs would be appropriate, in that:
  (a) it represents 69 natural gas co-operatives, four county utilities, 20 town and village utilities, two privately owned utilities and eight First Nations owned utilities in matters concerning government oversight of the member utilities' activities and in matters of sound business practice;
  (b) its primary mandate is to provide technical and business assistance to the member utilities and it does not have funds to participate in the Commission's proceedings;
  (c) if its costs in these proceedings are not granted, some part of the members' fees would need to be allocated as a result;
  (d) its constituent gas utilities provide gas service at cost to their customers, using a cash method of calculating cost of service, rather than the utility method, and do not include a profit in the cost of service or pay dividends to the customer/owners.
  3. In its answer, BCT·TELUS submitted that the Federation does not qualify for an award of costs in that it had not demonstrated that it has insufficient funds to properly prosecute its case. BCT·TELUS submitted that the Federation has a specific industry interest and has available to it funding from the companies and commercial enterprises that make up its membership and has sufficient incentive to participate in proceedings affecting their business enterprises.
  Commission determination
  4. The Commission is of the view that an award of costs is not appropriate in these circumstances.
  5. The Federation submitted that it has intervened in utility rate matters before the Alberta Energy and Utility Board where its members' interests were affected, that it has no staff to carry out regulatory matters and relies on outside counsel and consultants, and that it has received costs for these interventions and does not, as a result, have a budget for regulatory matters. The Commission notes, unlike the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, it does consider the nature of the applicant as a threshold issue in considering applications for costs.
  6. The Commission set out the general principle to be considered in awarding costs in Re: Maritime Telegraph and Telephone Company Limited - Revenue Requirement for 1990 and 1991, Telecom Costs Order 91-3, 11 February 1991. In order to meet the objective of informed participation in public hearings, costs awards are to be made available to responsible interveners who lack sufficient funds to properly prosecute their cases, particularly where such interveners represent the interests of a substantial number or class of subscribers.
  7. In applying this principle, the Commission has not been disposed to grant applications for costs where participation in regulatory matters is a normal function of the applicant organisation and a portion of the organisation's budget or membership fees is allocated, or may be deemed to be allocated, toward such participation.
  8. With few exceptions, the Commission has viewed commercial enterprises, industry associations and municipalities as ineligible to receive cost awards.
  9. The Commission's view has been that commercial enterprises and industry associations have sufficient incentives to participate and are not generally regarded as lacking sufficient funds to properly execute their case. The Commission has maintained this view even where the applicant claimed that it did not in fact have sufficient funds to participate. Similarly, the Commission has generally declined to award costs to municipalities on the basis that a city's participation in regulatory matters affecting its citizens is a recognized function of a municipality and a portion of its annual budget is deemed to be allocated accordingly.
  10. In a few instances, the Commission has made exceptions where it has found that the proceeding involved special and unique circumstances of such a nature as to justify departure from its usual approach.
  11. In Telecom Costs Orders CRTC 96-31 and 96-32, dated 3 December 1996, relating to the Tariffs for Educational and Health Service Entities proceeding, the Commission concluded that the exceptional nature of the proceeding constituted special and unique circumstances that justified making an exception in order to award costs to the Canadian Library Association (CLA) and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).
  12. In Telecom Costs Order CRTC 93-10, dated 27 August 1993, In re: AGT Limited (AGT) - Issues Related to Income Taxes, the Commission concluded that the exceptional nature of the proceeding and the City of Calgary's exceptional contribution constituted special and unique circumstances that justified a limited costs award.
  13. Having carefully considered the submissions of the parties, the Commission considers that, as a representative of natural gas distributors, the Federation is an industry association representing business interests and that participating in regulatory matters on behalf of its members is a normal part of the Federation's activities.
  14. The Commission notes that the Federation's submissions in the proceeding focused on the issue of subsidy for business lines in the high cost serving areas. The Commission is of the view that the Federation has sufficient incentive to participate and a portion of its budget or membership fees may be deemed to be allocated toward such participation.
  15. While the Federation submits that its member co-ops provide gas service at cost to their customers, the Commission is of the view that a portion of the Federation's budget or membership fees should be deemed to be allocated toward participation in regulatory matters.
  16. The Commission has determined that the circumstances in this case do not constitute the special and unique circumstances necessary to justify making an exception to its general policy regarding costs awards.
  17. In light of the foregoing, the application of the Federation for an award of costs in respect of the above-mentioned proceeding is denied.
  Secretary General
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Date Modified: 1999-12-23

Date modified: